Many of you have joined us on our journey of crafting a 20’ Ojibwe Wiigwaasi Jiimaan (Birchbark Canoe) and many more of you have followed us on our journey, in-person and virtually. We are overjoyed to be on the precipice of paddling this beautiful canoe for the first time! 

We have spent 4 summers, beginning in 2017, learning, teaching, processing, creating, and building this canoe. From harvesting wiigwaas, wadab (roots), and pine pitch to steaming the waaginaag (ribs), you have been witness and builder to all of it. This weekend will mark the first of many community paddles.

Multitudes of hands have been involved in the process of building this canoe. We are honored to share such a beautiful tradition with so many in our community and we are ever grateful to the Anishinaabe elders who have participated and shared their stories along the way. Honoring that legacy, we would love for all of you to join us in paddling this community canoe. This Sunday, August 7, we will be hosting a BBCP celebration at Semer’s Park in Ely. We invite anyone and everyone to join us to take their turn paddling one of our birchbark canoes. Starting around 4 pm we will begin setting up a potluck back at the Ely Folk School. Please attend for whichever part of the celebration you’re able.


Lucy Soderstrom, Program Director

P.S. It’s a busy weekend! Don’t miss our friends from Mixed Precipitation performing their pick-up truck opera The Magic Flute in Whiteside Park at 4 pm on Saturday, August 6!

This activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

View a full list of classes online.

J Jeffrey Messerole Concert
7:00 PM

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Tickets: $20

Multi-award winning songwriter J. Jeffrey Messerole is an Americana musician from Iowa’s capital city. From the depths of his Iowa roots, Messerole masterfully blends the sounds of his guitar with engaging lyrics, and often a harmonica, to tell gritty American tales that are bound to evoke emotion from all of his listeners. The motifs of his songs can vary as greatly as the wild flowers in the native tall grass. Messerole does frequently write about that flora, as well as the fauna of the region. Not to mention all of it’s wild life. Not one to shy away from subject matter, the songs can frequently meander across the lines between love and loss, success and failure, or life and death.

New Board Member Spotlight: Ozzie Reif

How did you become involved at the Ely Folk School?
Ever since I was a child, I have loved being outside and making things with my hands.  The first class I attended at the Ely Folk School was the beaver fur hat class.  I am always trying to keep my head warm during the winter months and it hasn’t been cold since!

What are you looking forward to focusing on as a board member?
 I am excited to help expand the range of folks served by classes.  It is so rewarding to see people come together to learn new skills or to strengthen the skills they already know.  

What else do you do outside of EFS?
In the summer, I enjoy camping, canoeing, and fishing.  In the winter, I enjoy cross country skiing, dog sledding, and sewing.  And I am a fan of reading all year round.

What is one fun fact about you?
I start almost all my fires on camping trips with flint and steel.

Monthly Sisu


(Birch Bark Canoe)

In recent years there has been a movement to learn about Anishinaabemowin and traditional skills including how to build a wiigwaasi-jiimaan. The Birch Bark Canoe Project (BBCP), at the Ely Folk School, is a gathering place of valuable knowledge for the Ely area community and those traveling through. 

The birch bark canoe is an ancient vessel, used for thousands of years to support life in this vast region of lakes and forests of white birch trees. When hunting, foraging, traveling, exploring, or hauling, wiigwaasi-jiimaan was light to carry on portages and easy to fix when damaged. It supported a way of life and the makings were passed down through history by oral legend. One version says that the Anishinaabe were given the knowledge and taught how to make the birch bark canoe by cultural hero Waynaboozhoo.

Video footage of Erik Simula in the field talking about harvesting bark for the 14ft canoe, video 6 of 8. Video taken and produced by Brad Carlson Photography.

The Ely Folk School is made possible by: Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, Donald G. Gardner Humanities Trust, Lake Country Power, Minnesota State Arts Board, Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment, and Rotary International.